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ATHENS – Train services in Greece resumed Wednesday for the first time since a deadly rail disaster three weeks ago, and just a day after the embattled conservative prime minister announced early elections for May.
The Feb. 28 head-on collision, the deadliest in the country’s history, killed 57 people and left dozens injured, with nine still hospitalized.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose center-right government has been struggling to regain its footing after the crash, said late Tuesday said he would hold elections in May ‒ a month later than initially expected ‒ but did not give an exact date.
Greece must hold elections by July when the government’s term expires.
Since the crash, the government’s lead in opinion polls has roughly halved to as little as three points over its main left-wing rival.
“It was a tragedy that should never have happened. It is inconceivable to think that in Greece in 2023 there could be two trains on the same track, traveling in opposite directions, and that no one realized it,” Mitsotakis said in the interview with private Alpha television where he discussed the election date.
“I believe people, while feeling anger and rage, understand that this accident resulted from the sum of mistakes made over many decades. We now have an obligation now to deal with them drastically … We feel a heavy responsibility.”
National and suburban train services restarted only along limited sections of the rail network, with additional train and station staff and compulsory speed reduction points at areas where the potential for a collision is considered higher.
The first train of the day was the 04:45 a.m. service from Athens to Inoi, 60 kilometers (37 miles) to the north. The suburban rail service from Athens to its international airport was also restored.
Full services will resume on April 11, including railway transportation between Athens and Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki.
The deadly collision between a passenger train on the Athens-Thessaloniki route and an oncoming freight carrier highlighted long-standing problems with systems to monitor network safety.
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